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ADA offers resources to help keep hackers at bay in wake of Ohio attack

January 15, 2019

Toledo, Ohio — The ADA Center for Professional Success contains resources to aid dentists to fight off cyberattacks and hackers and to potentially prevent a ransomware attack similar to what happened to the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio.

According to the center’s website, in late 2018 the center’s information technology vendor made it aware that ransomware had infected the vendor’s systems, resulting in a disruption to storing the center’s information. Upon investigation, the center confirmed that sensitive information — such as social security numbers, medical treatment and history, diagnoses and clinical treatment information, medical records, health insurance and benefit information and financial account information — were potentially accessible to an unknown actor. 

Although the Dental Center of Northwest Ohio has not received any reports of actual access to that information as a result of the incident, the center is providing access to credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to affected patients and employees, at no cost to these individuals.

Information on the ADA Center for Professional Success includes several tips on protecting dental offices from ransomware and phishing, as well as examples of how ransomware can be particularly devastating. Visit Success.ADA.org and search for "ransomware" to access the resources.

Ransomware is a cybersecurity attack that can happen when someone clicks on a link or attachment in a scam email that installs software that subsequently holds the practice's data hostage by encrypting the data. Once the software is installed, it may be able to spread to other systems on your network.  The attackers can then ask for money or cryptocurrency to decrypt and restore the data, though there is no way of knowing if they will restore or delete the encrypted files.

Phishing is when hackers try to trick an email recipient into providing account information or ask the victim to click on a link or open an attachment that deploys ransomware. Phishing emails sometimes mimic trusted email addresses or senders.

The ADA Center for Professional Success recommends actions you can take to help protect your dental office, including:

  • Backing up data regularly and keeping a copy offsite. Backing up data regularly and keeping an encrypted copy offsite can help protect dental practices from ransomware, and may also be useful for restoring data in the case of a disaster like fire or flood.
  • Be wary of email attachments. Opening attachments or clicking on web links from unknown sources is what many hackers rely on to infiltrate systems. If you are not absolutely sure of the sender or the attachment or link, don’t open the attachment or click on the link.
  • Maintain cyberdefenses. Make sure anti-virus and anti-malware software is updated promptly. Apply software patches for operating system, browser and browser add-ins like Flash and Java as soon as they are available.

In addition, the Federal Trade Commission has a new webpage, available at ftc.gov by searching for ransomware, containing resources to help small business owners protect themselves from ransomware and phishing. The webpage contains information on how ransomware attacks happen, how to protect a small business and what to do if a business is attacked. There is also a video on ransomware and a quiz to test knowledge on cybersecurity.